Joyful Submission to Authority
“You became obedient from the heart.”—ROMANS 6:17.
1, 2. (a) What spirit is evident in the world today, and what are its source and its effect? (b) How do Jehovah’s dedicated servants show that they are different?
“THE spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience” is shockingly evident today. It is a spirit of unbridled independence, emanating from Satan, “the ruler of the authority of the air.” This spirit, this “air,” or dominant attitude of selfishness and disobedience, exerts “authority,” or power, over most of mankind. This is one reason why the world is going through what has been called a crisis of authority.—Ephesians 2:2.
2 Happily, Jehovah’s dedicated servants today do not fill their spiritual lungs with this polluted “air,” or spirit of rebellion. They know that “the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” The apostle Paul adds: “Therefore do not become partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:6, 7) Rather, true Christians endeavor to be “filled with [Jehovah’s] spirit,” and they drink in “the wisdom from above,” which is “chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey.”—Ephesians 5:17, 18; James 3:17.
Willing Submission to Jehovah’s Sovereignty
3. What is the key to willing submission, and what great lesson does history teach us?
3 The key to willing submission is recognition of legitimate authority. The history of mankind shows that rejection of Jehovah’s sovereignty does not bring happiness. Such rejection did not bring happiness to Adam and Eve, nor to the instigator of their rebellion, Satan the Devil. (Genesis 3:16-19) In his present debased condition, Satan has “great anger” because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:12) The peace and happiness of mankind, yes, of the whole universe, depend on universal recognition of Jehovah’s righteous sovereignty.—Psalm 103:19-22.
4. (a) What kind of submission and obedience does Jehovah want his servants to show? (b) Of what should we be convinced, and how does the psalmist express this?
4 Yet, because of his marvelously balanced qualities, Jehovah is not satisfied with cold obedience. He is powerful, oh, yes! But he is not a tyrant. He is a God of love, and he wants his intelligent creatures to obey him willingly, out of love. He wants them to submit to his sovereignty because they wholeheartedly choose to place themselves under his righteous and legitimate authority, convinced that there could be nothing better for them than to obey him forever. The kind of person that Jehovah wants in his universe shares the feelings of the psalmist who wrote: “The law of Jehovah is perfect, bringing back the soul. The reminder of Jehovah is trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise. The orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice; the commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine. The fear of Jehovah is pure, standing forever. The judicial decisions of Jehovah are true; they have proved altogether righteous.” (Psalm 19:7-9) Implicit confidence in the rightness and the righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty—this must be our attitude if we want to live in Jehovah’s new world.
Joyful Submission to Our King
5. How was Jesus rewarded for his obedience, and what do we willingly acknowledge?
5 Christ Jesus is himself a sterling example of submission to his heavenly Father. We read that “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” Paul adds: “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11) Yes, we joyfully bend the knee before our Leader and reigning King, Christ Jesus.—Matthew 23:10.
6. How has Jesus proved to be a witness and a leader to national groups, and how will his “princely rule” continue after the great tribulation?
6 Of Christ as our Leader, Jehovah prophesied: “Look! As a witness to the national groups I have given him, as a leader and commander to the national groups.” (Isaiah 55:4) By his earthly ministry and by his directing the preaching work from heaven after his death and resurrection, Jesus has shown himself to be a “faithful and true witness” of his Father toward peoples of all nations. (Revelation 3:14; Matthew 28:18-20) Such national groups are now represented in increasing numbers by the “great crowd,” who will survive the “great tribulation” under Christ’s leadership. (Revelation 7:9, 14) But Jesus’ leadership does not end there. His “princely rule” will last for a thousand years. For obedient humans, he will live up to his name of “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7; Revelation 20:6.
7. If we wish Christ Jesus to lead us to “fountains of waters of life,” what must we do without delay, and what will cause us to be loved by Jesus and Jehovah?
7 If we wish to benefit from the “fountains of waters of life” to which the Lamb, Christ Jesus, guides righthearted humans, we must without delay prove by our course of action that we joyfully submit to his authority as King. (Revelation 7:17; 22:1, 2; compare Psalm 2:12.) Jesus stated: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments. He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him.” (John 14:15, 21) Do you want to be loved by Jesus and by his Father? Then be submissive to their authority.
Overseers Joyfully Obey
8, 9. (a) What has Christ provided for the upbuilding of the congregation, and in what respect should these men be examples to the flock? (b) How is the submission of Christian overseers symbolized in the book of Revelation, and how should they seek an “obedient heart” when handling judicial matters?
8 “The congregation is in subjection to the Christ.” As its Overseer, he has provided “gifts in men” for “the building up” of the congregation. (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12; 5:24) These spiritually older men are told to ‘shepherd the flock of God in their care,’ not “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1-3) The flock is Jehovah’s, and Christ is its “fine shepherd.” (John 10:14) Since the overseers properly expect willing cooperation from the sheep that Jehovah and Christ have committed to their care, they themselves should be fine examples of submissiveness.—Acts 20:28.
9 In the first century, anointed overseers were symbolically represented as being “in,” or “upon,” Christ’s right hand, denoting their submission to him as Head of the congregation. (Revelation 1:16, 20; 2:1) No less so today, overseers within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses should submit to Christ’s direction and ‘humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.’ (1 Peter 5:6) When called upon to handle judicial matters, like Solomon during his faithful years, they should pray to Jehovah: “You must give to your servant an obedient heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad.” (1 Kings 3:9) An obedient heart will move an elder to seek to see things as Jehovah and Christ Jesus see them so that the decision made on earth resembles as closely as possible that made in heaven.—Matthew 18:18-20.
10. How should all overseers endeavor to imitate Jesus in the way he treated the sheep?
10 Traveling overseers and congregation elders will likewise endeavor to imitate Christ in the way he treated the sheep. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus did not impose a lot of rules that were hard to follow. (Matthew 23:2-11) He said to sheeplike ones: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) While it is true that each Christian must “carry his own load,” the overseers should remember Jesus’ example and help their brothers to feel that their load of Christian responsibility is “kindly,” “light,” and a joy to carry.—Galatians 6:5.
11. (a) How might a person respect headship and yet not be really theocratic? Illustrate. (b) What does it mean to be truly theocratic?
11 Theocracy is rule by God. It involves the principle of headship expressed at 1 Corinthians 11:3. But it means more than that. A person might appear to show respect for headship and yet not be theocratic in the full sense of the word. How could this be? To illustrate, democracy is government by the people, and a democrat has been defined as “a person who believes in the ideals of democracy.” A man might claim to be democratic, take part in elections, and even be an active politician. But if, in his general behavior, he flouts the spirit of democracy and all the principles it involves, can it be said that he is truly democratic? Similarly, to be truly theocratic, a person must do more than submit to headship in a nominal way. He must imitate Jehovah’s ways and qualities. He must really be governed by Jehovah in every way. And since Jehovah has invested his Son with full authority, being theocratic also means copying Jesus.
12, 13. (a) What, in particular, does being theocratic involve? (b) Does theocratic submission involve obeying a lot of rules? Illustrate.
12 Remember, Jehovah wants willing submission motivated by love. That is his way of governing the universe. He is the very personification of love. (1 John 4:8) Christ Jesus is “the reflection of his glory and the exact representation of his very being.” (Hebrews 1:3) He requires his true disciples to love one another. (John 15:17) So being theocratic involves not only being submissive but also being loving. The matter might be summed up as follows: Theocracy is rule by God; God is love; therefore theocracy is rule by love.
13 An elder could think that in order to be theocratic, the brothers should obey all sorts of rules. Some elders have made rules out of suggestions given from time to time by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) For instance, it was once suggested that for the sake of more readily getting to know the brothers in the congregation, it might be good not always to sit in the same seat in the Kingdom Hall. This was meant to be a practical suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule. But some elders may be inclined to convert it into a rule and to feel that those who do not follow it are not theocratic. Yet, there may be many good reasons why a brother or a sister might prefer to sit in a certain area. If an elder does not lovingly take such things into account, is he himself being truly theocratic? To be theocratic, “let all your affairs take place with love.”—1 Corinthians 16:14.
Serving With Joy
14, 15. (a) How could an elder deprive certain brothers or sisters of their joy in serving Jehovah, and why would this not be theocratic? (b) How did Jesus show that he appreciates the love expressed by our service, rather than the amount? (c) What should elders take into consideration?
14 Being theocratic also means serving Jehovah with joy. Jehovah is “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) He wants his worshipers to serve him joyfully. Those who are sticklers for rules should remember that among the regulations that Israel had to be “careful to carry out” was the following: “You must rejoice before Jehovah your God in every undertaking of yours.” (Deuteronomy 12:1, 18) Whatever we undertake in Jehovah’s service should be a joy, not a burden. Overseers can do much to make the brothers feel happy to do what they can in serving Jehovah. Conversely, if elders are not careful, they can deprive some of the brothers of their joy. If, for example, they make comparisons, commending those who have reached or exceeded the congregation’s average in hours spent witnessing and by implication criticizing those who did not attain it, how will those feel who may have had a valid reason for reporting much less time? Could this not make them feel unnecessarily guilty and deprive them of their joy?
15 The few hours that some can devote to public witnessing may represent a greater effort than the many hours that others spend preaching, in view of younger age, better health, and other circumstances. In this respect, elders are not to judge them. Indeed, it is to Jesus that the Father has given “authority to do judging.” (John 5:27) Did Jesus criticize the poor widow because her offering was less than the average? No, he was sensitive to what those two small coins really cost her. They were “all of what she had, her whole living.” What deep love for Jehovah they represented! (Mark 12:41-44) Should elders be any less sensitive to the loving efforts of those whose all is numerically below “average”? In terms of love for Jehovah, such efforts might well be above average!
16. (a) If overseers use figures in their talks, why do they need discernment and good balance? (b) How can the brothers best be helped to increase their service?
16 Should these remarks now be converted into a new “rule” that figures—even averages—should never be mentioned? Not at all! The point is that overseers should strike a balance between encouraging the brothers to expand their ministry and helping them to do what they can with joy. (Galatians 6:4) In Jesus’ illustration of the talents, the master committed his belongings to his slaves “each one according to his own ability.” (Matthew 25:14, 15) Elders likewise should take into account the possibilities of each Kingdom publisher. This takes discernment. It may well be that some actually do need encouragement to do more. They may appreciate help toward better organizing their activity. Be that as it may, if they can be assisted to do what they can with joy, that joy will likely strengthen them to expand their Christian activity where possible.—Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 59:16; Jeremiah 20:9.
The Peace That Comes From Joyful Submission
17, 18. (a) How can joyful submission bring us peace and righteousness? (b) What can be ours if we really pay attention to God’s commandments?
17 Joyful submission to Jehovah’s legitimate sovereignty brings us great peace. The psalmist said in prayer to Jehovah: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.” (Psalm 119:165) By obeying God’s law, we benefit ourselves. Jehovah told Israel: “This is what Jehovah has said, your Repurchaser, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’”—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
18 Christ’s ransom sacrifice brings us peace with God. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) If we have faith in Christ’s redeeming blood and conscientiously endeavor to combat our weaknesses and do God’s will, we find relief from feelings of guilt. (1 John 3:19-23) Such faith, backed up by works, gives us a righteous standing before Jehovah and the wonderful hope of surviving “the great tribulation” and living forever in Jehovah’s new world. (Revelation 7:14-17; John 3:36; James 2:22, 23) All of this can be ours ‘if only we would actually pay attention to God’s commandments.’
19. Upon what does our happiness now and our hope of everlasting life depend, and how did David express our heartfelt conviction?
19 Yes, our happiness now and our hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth revolve around our joyful submission to Jehovah’s authority as Sovereign Lord of the universe. May we ever share the feelings of David, who said: “Yours, O Jehovah, are the greatness and the mightiness and the beauty and the excellency and the dignity; for everything in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Jehovah, the One also lifting yourself up as head over all. And now, O our God, we are thanking you and praising your beauteous name.”—1 Chronicles 29:11, 13.
Points to Remember
◻ What kind of submission and obedience does Jehovah want his servants to show?
◻ How was Jesus rewarded for his obedience, and what must we prove by our course of action?
◻ How should all overseers imitate Jesus in the way he treated the sheep?
◻ What is involved in being theocratic?
◻ What blessings does joyful submission bring us?
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Elders encourage the flock to do joyfully whatever they can
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Jehovah takes pleasure in those who obey him from the heart